The decision by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to postpone the implementation of a sex education curriculum was a wise one, even in the face of exasperated educators, social workers and public health professionals.
The curriculum was denounced by conservative lobbies and religious groups that accused Ontario of promoting a homosexual agenda to children. Even secular parents expressed concern about explicit, age inappropriate subject matter for children. It’s a pity the central issue got lost in the fray: The need for a comprehensive sex education curriculum with public consultation.
Educators have long complained about a dichotomy that exists between them and parents. A key player in this controversy has been Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of an organization called Answer, based at Rutgers University, that promotes sexuality education.
In reference to McGuinty’s decision, Shroeder diminishes her cause by audaciously stating that educators need to “Stick our feet in the ground” and say “We are the educational experts. We certainly don’t have parents deciding how to teach math.” Such an attitude does little more than fan flames.
Youngsters are experimenting with raging hormones, a desire to explore, a desire for sexual approval and acceptance. It is illogical to steer clear of a comprehensive sex education curriculum in elementary schools given the reality of teen pregnancies and the risk of contracting an STD. But we need to convey the message in a way that educates parents as well as their children.
Many parents are oblivious about their children’s sexual behaviour, which, according to many professionals I have interviewed, even takes place in washrooms between classes. Sorry to break the news, but statistically this also includes children from religiously conservative families who have been bitten by the sexualized culture bug.
There needs to be a clearly articulated roadmap as to how this curriculum is taught: One that will not leave room for questions about agendas. The city of Hamilton, Ont., — with a disproportionately high rate of STDs among youth — implemented a sex-ed program six years ago that caused no controversy. It was called the I’m Worth The Wait campaign, focusing on self-esteem issues, peer pressure and making appropriate choices. The program principally encouraged youth to speak with and engage input from trusted adults when it comes to questions about sex. Bravo.
Educators in every province could learn from this as we collectively bear the responsibility for educating our youth in an area that could and does impact their entire lives.
Christine Williams is the producer and host of the live current affairs daily talk show On the Line at CTS TV in Burlington, Ont.